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Remembering my OpenCon year

The second edition of OpenCon happened last November in Brussels. But for me, OpenCon was much more than just those 3 days. In many ways, 2015 was my OpenCon year. It was also my first year as a phd student, and the year I finally got back to taking Spanish lessons. Between all that, this blog was left behind. It’s good to be back!


My OpenCon year started at the end of January 2015, when I got an invitation to join the conference’s Organising Committee. I did not go to the first OpenCon, but I followed people talking about it on Twitter, and read the blog posts after. The positivity around the conference really impressed me – by all accounts, this was the best conference EVER. I could not believe I was getting a chance to be a part of it. For a second I could hear my old friend impostor syndrome saying that this had to be a mistake, but not accepting was not an option. This was an one-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I took it.

To say I don’t regret my choice would be an understatement. OpenCon was a great learning experience. I had helped organize events before, but nothing near this scale. The SPARC and Right to Research Coalition teams deserve all my respect and admiration for running this conference, making sure everything goes as smooth as possible before, during and after those 3 days. Besides working on the OC, I talked about altmetrics at the Research Evaluation panel, and lead the “Taking on the Impact Factor” workshop (with the awesome Joe McArthur) and the “How to challenge the Impact Factor and change research evaluation” unconference session. These were a lot of firsts for me: first time helping organize an international event, first time presenting at an international event, first time facilitating an unconference session, first time doing advocacy… I have learned so much that it made me want to learn and do even more.

But OpenCon is much more than a place to learn: it is a community. I love conferences in general because they are a great excuse for taking a break from your day-to-day activities to meet a bunch of people who care about the same things you do. OpenCon is even better at that because of the efforts to provide scholarships to most attendants, so that money won’t be an object. The selection process was the hardest part of being at the Organising Committee, but I think it is also the secret to OpenCon’s success. You end up gathering this group of people from all the corners of the world, where everyone is an awesome person with a great idea/project. It almost felt like a spiritual retreat: 3 days filled with joy, meaning, and hope. Joy from meeting and falling in love with all these awesome people (also, trust me, the OpenCon community knows how to party), meaning from understanding how being open can change the world, and hope from believing we can actually make a difference.

There’s also a strong political aspect of OpenCon. Advancing open practices is about fighting inequality, as Jon Tennant pointed out on his blog post. Advocacy day is not an accessory to OpenCon, it is crucial: it is not enough to talk or do research about openness, we have to take action, personally and as a group. There’s obviously lots to be done, and some disagreement on what is the best way to do it. It may be frustrating to see how slowly things change, but we must keep pushing. The advocay training panel was the one I was most looking forward too, and probably my favorite in the conference. The focus was on EU politics, but there’s lots of useful advice for everyone. I highly reccomend it, specially Wikimedian Dimitar Dimitrov’s talk.

The greatest thing about OpenCon is that you can be a part of it right now. I’m not talking about watching the conference videos on YouTube (though you totally can – and should – do that!), I’m saying you can actually join the OpenCon community, through the discussion list, monthly calls (next one is this Wednesday!), webcasts, even sattelite events. This way, every year can be an OpenCon year!


Comments on the Impactstory Impact Challenge

Last November, altmetrics provider ImpactStory launched their Impact Challenge, encouraging academics to take action and improve their chances of making an impact. It consisted of 30 tasks focused on how to create an online presence, spread the word about your research, connect with other researchers, keep updated and track mentions to you and your work. Being a challenge, you are expected to complete all tasks, and there’s even a prize. But they did a very good job of presenting not only the advantages but also disadvantages and concerns involved in each task – for instance, the closed, commercial nature of sites like Academia.edu and Facebook. Taking a challenge is fun, but research is serious business. In the end, the decision is at the hands of the researcher: is this particular tool/action a good choice for me and my work? The information provided in each Impact Challenge post makes it easier to make that decision.

The first 5 challenge tasks involved creating profiles in some of the best known academic and/or professional networks out there: Academia.eduResearchGateGoogle ScholarMendeley and LinkedIn (click the links to see my profiles, feel free to add me to your contacts). Because I am interested in how scientists use social media tools to communicate about and work on their research (this was supposed to be the theme of my master thesis, before I decided to focus on altmetrics), I had already joined all of these networks in the past, so I took the opportunity to revise my profiles, especially the LinkedIn one.

Clearly there are too many social network sites, and that might lead to “profile fatigue“. This might be even worse for researchers from non-English speaking countries like myself, since we might need to keep multilingual profiles. And Brazilians have another factor to consider: we have a national database of individual researchers, the Lattes Platform. Pretty much everyone who does research here, from undergrads to top scientists, needs to have a Lattes CV. Lattes info is used for selecting grad students, hiring professors, assessing institutional performance, and much more. I still need to look at this more closely, but I would guess many Brazilian researchers don’t invest much time on web-based academic social networks because they feel Lattes is enough – even it doesn’t have social features, it is what counts for evaluation purposes around here, and keeping it up-to-date can be a lot of work.

Tasks #6 and #7 are the reason this blog exists, as I said on my first post. As I start my phd next year, the plan is to use this site to build my online presence and discuss my expectations, discoveries, and difficulties faced during the next four years – stay tuned!

Task #8 presented Kudos, a tool with an interesting premise: getting researchers to explain their work in simpler terms as a way to amplify the reach of their journal articles. Unfortunately I’ve only got one paper currently eligible for Kudos, a journal article I co-authored with colleagues in an area that has little to do with my current interests (my most recent work are conference presentations). I prefer waiting until I have something I feel more strongly about to see what Kudos can do for my research.

Days #9 and #10 were all about Twitter and Facebook. Twitter is by far my favorite social network, a great place to follow what matters to me, from important to silly stuff – hey, for me being silly is pretty important! Tweetdeck has helped me enjoy it even more, by creating custom columns not only from lists but also from searches (by the way, if you know an Android Twitter client that has columns as flexible as Tweetdeck’s, please leave a comment). Facebook is a different story, my contacts there are mostly friends and family. The academic ones are usually also on some other network I use, so for me it’s just not worth it to use Facebook for research purposes now.

Maintaining all your social media accounts can be a lot of work, so task #11 helps to make things a little easier with automation tools like Buffer and IFTTT. I was already a IFTTT user, and am now getting to know Buffer. But what I’d really like would be a way to automatically add new publications to all my academic profiles, which isn’t possible right now and probably won’t be soon.

The next tasks dealt with making your research outputs – datasoftware, conference talks, preprints and so on – more visible. I’ve been using Figshare for my preprints already (conference papers, master’s thesis), and now I’m thinking of ways to share my data there. SlideShare is already the home of all my slides. I haven’t written any research software yet, so still no use for Github. Guess I’ll probably need to learn some code for my PhD, I’ll be sure to share any I might write in the future.

If you’re going to openly share your data, slides, code and preprints, it makes sense to also publish your articles openly, right? That’s the point of step 15. Being an “impact” challenge, the emphasis here is in the Open Access citation advantage, which is really great – who doesn’t want more readers and citations? But commiting to Open Access can also be a political statement – consider Erin McKiernan’s talk at OpenCon 2014, for example. I feel this sort of personal action is necessary if we’re going to change our current publishing system into one where openness is the norm.

As important to put your work out there is to make sure everyone knows this work is actually yours. Task #17 introduces ORCID identifiers – unique numbers to identify researchers and connect them to their works. I got mine earlier this year.

On day 18, we were invited to create video abstracts for research. I think these are cool, but I’m not sure I’d do it. I gave an interview about my master’s research to a Brazilian podcast, and would love to do something like this again, but the idea of making a video by myself is something I’m not comfortable with.

Promoting yourself and your work is important, but is not everything. Task #19 suggests unlocking the potential of Open Peer Review as a tool for establishing your expertise. Personally, I still can’t think of myself as a proper “peer”, much less an expert, so I feel too intimidated to give opinions on these platforms. It’s something I need to work on.

Tasks #20 and #21 are full of useful tips for staying up-to-date with your colleague’s work and the most recent developments on your field. Following people in Academia.edu/Researchgate and joining Mendeley groups works well for me. I tried creating Google Scholar alerts, but with search terms “altmetrics” and “article-level metrics” it sent me every page with an Altmetric donut in it. Sparrho offers a similar alert service, and their suggestions are much better than Google’s in my experience, at least for altmetrics – searching for “article-level metrics” is still not efficient. But my favorite, most effective way to keep up-to-date and interact with fellow researchers is to look daily at my Tweetdeck search column dedicated to #altmetrics. If you know of any Twitter hashtags related to your work, I suggest trying this. Oh, and I still use rss feeds to keep an eye on my favorite blogs and sites, academic or otherwise – since the end of Google Reader, I’m a happy Newsblur customer.

Task #22 has great pointers to help researchers deal with the press. My research is hardly newsworthy, but I’ll keep their tips in mind just in case.

Days #23 to #26 went back to the work of expanding your network and building meaningful relationships, by joining listservs, going to conferencesmentoring, and finding co-authors. I follow several email lists (if you’re interested in open science/access/data, check the Open Knowledge Foundation ones), try to go to as many academic events as possible, and am getting in touch with potential co-authors. But I’ve never thought a student like me could be a mentor. I’m thinking of ways to put their advice into practice next year.

Task #27 presents tools for tracking activity around your social media accounts and/or websites, namely Twitter, Sumall, and Google Analytics (SlideShare has also recently made their analytics page freely available to users). Even if you’re not interested on becoming some sort of web celebrity, it is worth it to take a look at these statistics – I, for instance, was quite surprised to see that most visitors to my SlideShare are based in the US, since most of my content is in portuguese.

Tracking the effects of your social media presence is nice, but tracking the effects of your research products is better. In order to do that, it’s important to make them easily identifiable by search engines. Task #28 shows how to get DOIs for articles, preprints, databases, reviews and other products. I use Figshare for this purpose, no complaints so far. Tasks #29 and #30 wrap up the challenge presenting tools to get product-level metrics, from citations to altmetrics. They cover a good number of sources, but of course Impactstory gets the spotlight – it is their challenge, after all! I think their tool really makes it easier to follow metrics about your work. Just make sure all your outputs are there, and they do the rest (disclaimer: I’m an enthusiastic ImpactStory user).

Taking the Impactstory Impact Challenge was a fun way for me to think about how I’m presenting myself on the web, and how to better use it for doing, sharing and discussing research. I did not complete all tasks (no t-shirt for me!), but that wasn’t my goal anyway. As I advance on my way towards becoming a mature researcher, I shall keep these lessons in mind.

Hello, world!

I’ve been thinking about starting a new blog for a while. After terminating my last blog in the midst of a faith crisis (more on that in the future, if you’re interested), I’ve been registering ideas on Twitter, Facebook, and mostly on the several notebooks filling my desk drawers. This is not ideal: some tweets/FB posts may generate good discussion, but they’ll mainly go unnoticed and never be found again. Same with the notebooks: the very act of writing down a thought may help fix it in my mind, but it will not be available to others and might never generate something new in the real world. A blog could make it easier for me to remember these thoughts, share them with others, and make new things.

Another advantage to blogging is to practice my writing. Scribbling random notes on a piece of paper is very nice for personal use, but if I want others to understand what I’m saying then I need some structure and planning. Of course the dream is to have other people read, comment, build with me – but even if readers don’t show up, just the exercise of explaining what I think to an imaginary reader may be enough to make my ideas clearer even to myself, and get some interesting insights.

So, this idea of going back to blogging has been in my mind for some time. Why did I only act on it now? Frankly, what I needed was an external push, which came in the form of the ImpactStory Impact Challenge. During this November, ImpactStory is challenging academics to supercharge their research impact by completing several tasks – and one of them, of course, is to start an academic blog. I’ve found that I’m very good at cheating my self-imposed deadlines; and that being accountable to some external party, even an informal one, is a great way of getting myself to stop procrastinating. So, I took up the challenge, and here’s the blog (I’ll write about the other tasks and my general impressions on the challenge when it’s all done).

A main point for me was to make this blog bilingual somehow. For some reason (excessive comsuption of english-language media and scholarship, maybe?), my daily thoughts come both in English and in my mother tongue, Portuguese. On my notes, as on my Twitter feed, both languages show up, sometimes even mixed up in the same sentence. It is not always easy to convey the ideas born in one language into the other. Another reason to be bilingual is to reach out to the people doing research in my field, altmetrics. A post about it and why I’m researching it is next on my list, for now it will suffice to say that my interest has two sides: I want more people in Brazil to know about altmetrics so we can decide together how it could be useful in our context; and I also want to be involved with and make contributions to the international altmetrics community. Just as tweeting, networking, participating in academic events and publishing, bilingual blogging is another way for me achieve my goals.

If you, like myself, are not familiar with the technicalities of web publishing, but would like to set up a bilingual blog on WordPress.com, this support page has the information you need. I chose to have 1 blog, with posts in each language sorted into different categories. Let’s see how it works, I’d love your feedback.

Is this going to be a purely academic site? I’m not sure yet. Previous attempts to separate my life into “professional” and “personal” niches have failed. Still, chances are good that I may keep more personal stuff to the Portuguese category, since I don’t plan to have one category be a mirror of the other. There will be some cross-posting, but not everything will be translated – it all depends on each post context and intent.

That’s it for now, folks. Feel free to comment below, and to reach me on Twitter.